an ode to self-love by a hard-to-love-black-woman.

an ode to self love by a hard to love black woman

This morning, I woke with a migraine and self-limiting thoughts about my current relationships. My heart was full of the comments of people I thought had my back, but had actually been talking behind it. There isn’t enough sage in the world that can cleanse a heart of the sting of that feeling--that can fully restore trust that has been singed off by the flame of a lie or the breach of boundary. This feeling wasn’t the end of the world, but it did mark the ending of a hope. I felt disappointed.

So, I lay and let the disappointment wash over me--just for a moment. I let myself feel what needed to be felt, so that I could go on about my day with forgiveness on my tongue and hope renewed in my chest. It’s okay to feel, I tell myself. Feelings are an indication of how much I care. It’s okay to feel disappointed, I remind myself. Disappointment is an indication of how real my hope is in human love. Love is limitless. Humans are not. Friendship will come again.

What I’ve come to believe about love stems from my deep-seated beliefs about God. I believe that love is the spirit that connects us all as human beings on this earth. It is the backbone of kindness, truth, healing, wonderment, generosity, stability, and strength. Love keeps us patient. It keeps us full of gratitude. It teaches us to treasure the little moments.

Love is also risk. It’s the gentle quaking that comes when we have to decide whether or not something or someone is worth the ache of disappointment as well as the depth of human joy. In order to love, we need vulnerability. We need a “yes” that accepts all of the risks that come with putting yourself out there for the sake of connection.

Black women have a reputation for being the hardest to love. There may be levels and lies to this statement, yet I type this, I wince. I think of my own times of hard-heartedness. I think also of the raw moments when I’ve wept into my pillow at night—when memories have felt stronger than my own black and female backbone. I think of hard-heartedness as performative. It doesn’t solve anyone’s problems. It doesn’t keep us alive. It certainly doesn’t keep us from feeling humiliated, wishing the world would see us as the soft and human creatures we are.

We have to consciously study how to be tender with each other until it becomes a habit because what was native has been stolen from us, the love of Black women for each other.
— Audre Lorde
self-portrait. 2018.

self-portrait. 2018.

Yet, this hard-heartedness has brought me a gift. Despite the times I have let it shape me into the beloved hard-to-love-black-woman, it has led me to an oasis of self-love. And I finally chose to drink deeply from this oasis, my hard-heartedness melted. It was as if to say, Beloved, you've been using me to protect your heart from pain, but pain from hoping, risking, and loving is beautiful. Don't use me to keep you safe anymore. Just trust love.

We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honour the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness, and affection.
— Brene Brown

This oasis of self-love revealed to me how much space I have to care for both myself and others. Self-love showed me the power of fully accepting who I am, so that I might know how to fully accept the humanities of others—no matter the degree of risk. Self-love taught me that however the world, my partners, or other black women may receive me, I have nothing to prove to anyone. I, in my body, as I am, am enough. I am enough as I process and grow. I am enough when my anger fills the room. I am enough when I apologize and receive no forgiveness. I am enough when I am quiet. I am enough when my friends go home. I am enough when no one is listening to my voice anymore. I am enough.

The self-sufficiency that comes from being a black woman in an anti-black, anti-woman world is not what makes me enough. Hard-heartedness and resistance to bullshit does not make me enough. No, I am enough because of love. When love is present, I am enough. Love in its limitlessness and abundance has been an oasis for my suffering and disappointment (even my disappointments in my own self). So, at my worst—in my anti-self, anti-truth, hard-hearted, and hard-to-love-black-woman spaces—I am still enough. I am enough because the spirit of love and connection is for me and with me--even in the heat of my human wanderings--and it will stay with me till the end of my days.